A Year in My Life May- Allowing Others to serve

Wow, with all the chaos having an eighth baby brings I completely forgot to share my photos from my “A Year in My Life” project for the month of May. My goal with this project is to get the real camera out every day and document something. I would say May was not the biggest success. With Hannah being born in the middle of the month I wasn’t exactly full of motivation to take photos. Exhausted moms don’t go for the camera very regularly.

39 week pregnant belly shot |smithsquad.com| exist in photos | lifestlye maternity photography
Final belly shot of this pregnancy

On Mother’s Day after a gloriously long nap we went to a friend’s house for dinner. The dads made dinner while the moms sat and chatted. It was a really fun time. I passed off my camera to their teen daughter for a while and got what is now my final pre-baby belly shot.

newborn baby number eight |smithsquad.com| Fresh 48 photography |Newborn hospital photography | large family
Final belly shot of this pregnancy

Miss Hannah arrived on May 14th after only 2 hours of labor, her birth story is here if you care to read it. For some reason the recovery from this birth was much harder than my previous births. I usually feel pretty good physically by 3-4 days post-partum. With Hannah I still didn’t want to get off the couch after a week and didn’t feel like I was really myself till about two weeks.

a little boy and his sock monkey |smithsquad.com | Large family |Documentary family photography | Lifestlye child photographer

a little boy and his sock monkey |smithsquad.com | Large family |Documentary family photography | Lifestlye child photographer
Wally did a lot of sock monkey cuddling while mommy was baby cuddling.

They say that every birth is different, but honestly I never really expected for recovery to ever be all that different. I know that two weeks of recovery really isn’t that bad, but compared to my normal 3-4 days it was a real downer. I’ve also struggled a LOT more with the hormones this time around. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m getting older or because I’m just completely worn out, but boy have my mood swings been crazy! I’m pretty much over it now, but there were a few rough weeks there when I just couldn’t really function. It didn’t help at all that Cameron had to go back to work 2 days after Hannah was born.

Large family play time at the park |smithsquad.com | post partum depression Large family play time at the park |smithsquad.com | post partum depression

Large family play time at the park |smithsquad.com | post partum depression
Spending time outside at the park helps me to ward off post-partum depression.

So what’s a mom to do when there are seven very little people to take care of, but she is dealing with the baby blues? Ask for help. Sounds pretty easy, but boy is it hard! Somewhere in our history large families have ceased to be the norm. As such there is a lot of judgement that can come upon those of us who choose to have one when we don’t have everything 100% under control. I’ve heard it said to me or others more than once that if we can’t handle it then we shouldn’t have so many. IF I admit I need help I know I am risking negative judgment from others about my choice to allow another little person to join our family. While I am confident in my choices and know that I can not possibly escape judgment no matter what I do, it is still hard to risk opening myself up to that criticism from people who just don’t understand. I am naturally pretty independent. It is difficult to be vulnerable and admit I need help caring for all these monkeys.

It's ok to ask for help |Smithsquad.com | post partum recovery | Large Family |documentary photographer | Lifestyle photography
A local homeschool teen came over and helped out. Wally had a blast making cornbread with her help.

Luckily for me my husband does not suffer from the same insecurities. He asked the church ladies for help  and thankfully some really amazing friends jumped at the chance to serve. A fellow homeschooling family sent their teen daughter over to keep kids entertained so I could get some rest. Another friend came over later that week and brought food for a few days as well as spent the morning helping me with kiddos and laundry. People also brought us meals big enough to give me leftovers for over a week. My husband of course did his best to pick up as much slack as he could in the evenings when he was here as well.

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Amongst all the chaos of our new baby our goat, Alice, also had a new baby. Flora arrived a few months before we were expecting her, which means Alice was likely pregnant when we brought her home and we just didn’t know it yet. Flora was the cutest thing. I love how baby goats prance around the yard. Sadly we lost her when she was only a few days old. We’re not sure why. One morning the was hopping around cute as a button and that afternoon I found her hidden behind a large rock no longer breathing. Poor Alice took it pretty hard and kept bleating for her baby for about two days.

A new baby goat| Smithsquad.com| homesteading | Large Family
Alice loved her new baby as much as I love mine! I’m so sad we lost her.

Overall it was a pretty awesome month, and with everything that was going on I’m glad I got as many photos as I did. A huge thank you to all those who helped us make it through the month.

What was your post-partum recovery like? Did you allow others to help you? What was the most helpful thing anyone did for you after baby arrived?

Birth Story #8-Fastest Labor Yet

My labors always tend to be pretty fast and intense, but this birth story takes the cake for fastest one yet!

Hannah's Birth story- All natural hospital birth with baby #8 | SmithSquad.com | My fastest labor yet!

On Saturday night we went to a friends house for dinner. These were the friends that had volunteered to take our kids when we went to the hospital. I had been having contractions for about two days, but they were only 2-3 in an hour and not very intense. While at their house they got a bit stronger, but not any more often. At about 9 o’clock we packed the kids up and headed home. Cameron had met me there after work, so we each had our own car.

Not quite sure why, but getting in the car triggered something. Contractions immediately were strong and frequent. I pulled up my contraction timer app on my phone and they were timing at every 2.5-3.5 minutes. I got home before Cameron, he had to stop to get gas, and told the kids to go get dressed in their Sunday clothes. (Check out my post in Calming the Sunday Morning Chaos if that sounds totally weird to you) when Cam walked in the door I asked him to call our friends and tell them we were coming back with kids. “Now?” “Yes, NOW!”

We loaded the kids back in the car and drove over to drop them off. By this time contractions were getting hard to breathe through, especially while sitting buckled in the car! As Cameron unloaded kids I stood up and leaned over the front seat to make them a bit more manageable. I also retrieved my Serenity and Clary Sage essential oils from my bag which for some reason I thought should be placed in the very back of the van.

We got back in the car to drive the additional 20 minutes to the hospital. It was really killing me to not be able to use my typical pain management techniques of walking, rocking on the birth ball, and hot water. I was NOT handling the pain well at all and was even having a hard time reminding myself to breathe. You would think that being my eighth baby I’d be a pro, but it’s new each time and for some reason I just could not get myself into a good headspace this time.

We arrived at the hospital shortly before 11 and went to the desk. They immediately got me a wheelchair and printed up my forms. At this point I was hitting transition, they had Cameron sign the forms and quickly got me into labor and delivery. The nurses told me later that as I was rolled past their desk I looked calm so they thought I had a few hours. “Then we heard you and came running!”

As I was wheeled into the room I stood up to the edge of the bed and loudly said “Cameron she’s coming NOW!” Thankfully one thing I AM a pro at is letting my body take over when it comes to the point of pushing. I managed to get myself onto the bed for hands and knees, my favorite pushing position, as the nurses ran into the room. She was already crowning and I was still dressed! Cameron took care of the clothes as the nurses caught the head. Two good pushes and Hannah arrived at 11:07 pm.

At that point I mentally checked out. Everything had happened so fast and I hadn’t really been in control the way I had in the past. My brain just had to shut down for a few minutes. Within a few minutes of baby arriving the birth photographer got there. unfortunately she missed the big show, but she got some beautiful shots of the moments right after birth.

Natural birth story, baby #8 | SmithSquad.com | natural hospital birth | Fast labor | Mother and father bond over new baby
Yep, we made that! Photo courtesy of Elsa Shaw Photography

The on call doctor came in at that point, because my midwife was in the middle of delivering another baby, to deliver the placenta and check us all out. I found out later that the baby my midwife was delivering was also born at exactly 11:07. She said that had never happened to her before! One thing I absolutely LOVED about Athens Regional Hospital was that they have a policy of immediate skin to skin for a minimum of one hour. We ended up snuggling for over two hours before being separated for just a few moments so that I could clean up and be moved to the mother baby unit. They respected my wish for no first bath and took us both to the new room together, no nursery visit needed. The nursery nurse came to our room to do her assessments and Hannah never had to leave my side.

It never ceases to amaze me that no matter how many times I do this every story is completely different. Birth is such an amazing and powerful experience. It literally just took me over this time. I am incredibly grateful that my experience allowed me to just fully surrender my body to the process and let nature do its job. No tearing, no trauma, and a beautiful perfect baby as a reward. What could possibly be better?

Peace baby | SmithSquad | natural hospital birth | Athens Regional Hospital | newborn baby gives peace sign
She’s already a cool cat. Photograph courtesy of Elsa Shaw Photography.

If you’d like to read my other birth stories they are all on the blog as well

Baby 1

Baby 2

Baby 3

Baby 4

Baby 5

Baby 6

Baby 7

Have you written out your birth stories? I’d love to read them. Drop a link in the comments!